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  • 31 Oct 2018 9:18 PM | Jennie Curtis (Administrator)

    Community spirit, professional expertise and practical demonstrations were a feature of this erosion and revegetation workshop. Guest speakers David Hilhorst and Andy Taylor from South East Local Land Services and Scott Soper led an inspiring and educational day.

    Here are ideas and strategies from the workshop.

    Pioneer plants such as wattle add nitrogen to the soil and improve soil fertility and structure. You can use branches from these plants (preferably with seed attached) and lay them over bare ground to create a nursery for seeds and/or or tube stock.

    Locally grown small trees including wattles, kunzea and tea tree can be lopped and placed strategically on an eroded gully floor, the branches can be bundled and pegged creating a brush raft. The raft areas catch sediment that can be direct seeded using native grasses, sedges and rushes.

    Look for wet patches above and below small erosion head cuts and use these sites for revegetation using locally sourced plants. Use bendy plants that slow the speed of the water including Juncus species, Carex appressa and Lomandra species. Trees that grow thick trunks should be avoided in confined gully beds and streams because tree trunks can deflect flood waters into banks and exacerbate the erosion problem.

    Protect your soil from erosion is by maintaining 70- 80% ground cover in your paddocks and by limiting stock access to dams and dam spill ways. Erosion can be caused by overland flows from vegetation removal, dams, roads and gullies and by subsurface water movement. You can use simple clues to help you read your land, for example, are larger trees dying in patches? This could indicate that salinity is a problem. The eroded site at the property we visited was most likely being impacted by saline ground water which we learned also affects the water quality in the dam.

    Mapping shallow ground water with an electrical conductivity survey gives an insight into the depth of the water resource and the salinity of an area. Windellama Landcare owns electrical conductivity (EC) mapping equipment and it can be hired for use by property owners and contractors. You should seek advice from South East Local Land Services to help you plan your erosion control work and EC mapping – Contact your Local Land Services office.

    Eroded patches of sodic soils in gullies look like candle wax or stalactites. You can do a simple sodicity test using a small clod of soil and a clear dish. If area around the clod becomes cloudy, this indicates that the soil is sodic and might be highly erosive.  Soil sampling of your farm could help you decide if you should be planting salt tolerant species at an eroded site.

    Saline and Sodic Soils – the Difference video

    Weirs, rock structures and rock/wire mesh weirs are all examples of “controlled activities” that may require a permit. Contact the Office of Water for advice about building structures including dams in drainage lines. As a general principle, water should always be returned to the same drainage line not diverted to another site. Before undertaking major works in water courses and gullies it is wise to check that your contractor has sought the correct approvals.

    Contact a water regulatory officer as listed on the Office of Water website, call the licensing information on 1800 353 104 or email information@water.nsw.gov.au for more information.

    Jute mesh or hessian can be used on bare eroded sites to create zones where vegetation can be established. ‘Burritos’ can be made by wrapping jute or hessian fabric around a mixture of forest mulch and compost which can then be laid on the contour and held in place using wire pegs. Mulched areas can then be seeded with a soil conservation grass mix or local native grasses. Once micro climates have been established other plants can be encouraged to grow using the brush raft technique described above.

    Weeds such as blackberry and serrated tussock can be used as a resource to help provide mulch, organic matter and plant cover at eroded sites if they are already growing there. It is important though to manage weeds to prevent flowering or setting seed by cutting, spraying or manual removal. Chip and spray the weeds or cut the canes and leave them in situ on the gully floor or bank, this slows the flow of water and traps sediment. The area can be then planted with desirable plants and grasses. The thorny plants can act as protection for new plants during establishment. Continual monitoring of weed prone sites is important.

    The SIX Maps website can be used to work out the size of the catchment for an erosion head cut. For example, using SIX Maps, Andy Taylor estimated that for 1 in 50 year high rainfall events, the gully on this farm would have one tonne of water per second flowing over it. That is equivalent to one intermediate bulk container (IBC)/second. Estimating catchment size, soil testing and electrical conductivity testing are just some of the tools that can be used when planning erosion control measures.

    Further information and resources

    Gully Erosion Assessment and Control Guide

    The Farm Dam Handbook

    Rural Living Guide – A guide for Rural Landholders in the South East

    Guide to Managing Ground Cover – MLA

    DPI Erosion Website

    Grassland Flora – a field guide for the Southern Tablelands

    Native tree and shrub resources

    SIX Maps – mapping tool

    This event was made possible with funding and in-kind support from South East Local Land Services.

  • 31 Oct 2018 9:14 PM | Jennie Curtis (Administrator)
    This workshop was an opportunity for a group of small farmers to learn and practice routine animal husbandry procedures for cows and calves. ‘Marking’ refers to a set of husbandry practices for calves that includes vaccination, ear tagging, castration, dehorning and mothering up.

    See the MLA’s A Guide to Best Practice Husbandry in Beef Cattle for information on calf marking.

    Discussions from the workshop are outlined below.

    Vaccinations are given subcutaneously – just under the skin. The best place to give the injection is on the side of the calf’s neck (see fact sheet on vaccinations below for a diagram). The 5-in-1 vaccination covers five clostridial diseases, namely pulpy kidney (enterotoxaemia), black disease, tetanus, blackleg, and malignant oedema. 7-in-1 covers the same diseases as 5-in-1 plus Leptospira harjo and Leptospira Pomona. Using 7-in-1 is recommended if you are keeping the stock for breeding. Keep vaccines cool in an esky while you are marking. Hygiene is important – keep the needles and injection site on the animal clean. To be effective these vaccines require an initial dose, a booster 4-6 weeks later and an annual booster.

    See Future Beef Knowledge Centre information on vaccinations for beef cattle

    Zoonosis refers to a disease or infection that can transfer from animals to humans – examples include Q Fever and Leptospirosis. People who work with animals should be vaccinated against Q-fever and understand how to minimise the risks of contracting these diseases.

    Castrate calves as young as possible (around two weeks of age), not more than 3 months or younger than 24 hours. The rubber ring method is the easiest and safest method for small farmers to use on young calves. Using analgesia (pain relief) such as local anaesthetic and/or anti-inflammatory drugs could be beneficial to reduce pain and swelling at the castration site, and improve welfare. There is a 90 day withholding period for some medications given to calves.

    If you have any concerns about the condition of stock in your area you can contact the NSW Stock Squad or RSPCA. It is not anonymous but it is strictly confidential and protected in accordance with the NSW Privacy and Personal Information Protection Act.

    NSW Stock Squad Cooma 02 6452 0099

    RSPCA 1300 CRUELTY or online

    Grazing and droving on roadsides requires a permit – information on stock permits

    Additional resources from workshop

    Presentation from Dr Lou Baskind – District Veterinarian South East Local Land Services

    Prime Fact – Cattle Producers Biosecurity Duty

    Spotted anything unusual?

    Call the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Hotline 1800 675 888

    Do not be afraid to contact or report to your District Veterinarian. District veterinarians can help with diagnostic investigations of unexplained deaths or herd syndromes and there are often funding arrangements in place. Some specific signs to report if noted in cattle: sudden or unexpected deaths, red or brown urine, cattle ticks, chronic wasting conditions, lumps along the neck, cysts in meat, or abortions/vaginal discharge.

    Other cattle disease information

    Tick Fever

    Bovine cysticercosis

    Enzootic bovine leucosis

    Bovine Johnes Disease

    Parasitic diseases

    Contacting South East Local Land Services

    Email enquiry.southeast@lls.nsw.gov.au

    Braidwood 02 4842 2594
    Goulburn 02 4824 1900
    Yass 02 6118 7700

  • 28 Aug 2018 9:04 PM | Jennie Curtis (Administrator)

    Low rainfall and high stock feed prices put significant strain on livestock managers. This workshop presented by Darren Price from Price Rural Consultants and Helen Smith, Agricultural Advisor from South East Local Land Services (LLS), looked at how to feed livestock safely and economically when pasture is in short supply. It was held in Winter 2018 during the drought.

    Key points and resources

    1.     Sometimes you need to make tough decisions about your capacity (cost, feed availability and time) to feed livestock in the coming months. Reduce your numbers or destock while the animals are in good condition.

    2.     Choose which animals stay and go with the goal of improving your herd/flock in the long term. Check the condition of your stock and cull animals that are under performing. Cull any animals that are getting old, with cracked teeth or missing teeth – as a general rule cows over the age of eight years have reached the end of their productive life, although there might be the occasional pet that gets to stay longer. Pregnancy test and cull any stock that are not pregnant (if they should be pregnant). You have to decide if the value of the animal is worth the money and time you invest in feeding them: whether this is the dollars you earn from selling weaners or the satisfaction you have in producing your own food.

    3.     Think about the water requirements for your livestock. Get your livestock water storage full and keep as full as possible. Some supplements have salt in them that increases the animal’s requirement for water. Pregnant and lactating animals have a higher demand for water than other classes of stock. Water quality testing kits for livestock drinking water can be sourced from your Local Land Services office.

    4.     Remember to undertake routine animal management procedures including managing parasites, giving vaccinations and monitoring animal health during dry conditions. Weaning early to reduce the demand on breeding stock could be a strategy to consider. The Sheep Connect website has webinars about early weaning, feeding and selling sheep during drought.

    • Early weaned animals need high quality feed and careful health management. You can seek advice from Local Land Services, private vets or other agricultural consultants. Talk to your livestock agent about the best time to sell weaners. It might be easier to sell them younger/lighter and let someone else manage them.
    • Parasite burdens can be higher when animals are under stress and pastures are low so monitor with worm egg count testing and treat as needed.
    • Where possible, avoid shearing during winter as this will put extra stress on sheep that already have a high energy demand because of the cold.

    5.     Develop your skills for assessing pasture quantity and quality. This is essential for working out the amount of feed that you have in your paddocks. Dry standing feed can be useful for providing gut fill when feeding stock with other supplements.

    • You can make your own pasture measuring stick very easily with a piece of plastic pipe with the distance from the end marked in centimetres. You can use this with a pasture recording sheet to estimate the quantity and quality of the feed that you have on your property.
    • The Meat and Livestock Australia Website describes pasture assessment techniques and has a pasture height recording sheet.
    • Making More from Pasture also has useful information.
    • Pasture assessment takes some practice. The PROGRAZE course can help with learning this skill (contact your Local Land Services office).

    7.     Sheep and cattle can be fed grain or grain-based pellets as supplementary feed (must not contain restricted animal material). They will also need a source of fibre (pasture or hay).

    • To work out how much supplementary feed is needed, find out the nutritional requirement of your class of stock and then work out what is the shortfall in the pastures that needs to be replaced. Animals that are in late pregnancy, lactating or growing (weaners) need more feed than other classes of stock. The energy requirements of stock increase in cold conditions. When assessing feed look at the components in the following order: water, energy, protein, minerals and vitamins.
      [Note: the NSW DPI Drought and Supplementary Feed Calculator app has made this process much easier - Ed.]
    • An example for feed budgeting for sheep can be found at the Lifetime Wool Website.

    7.     All new feeds should be introduced gradually over a period of weeks so livestock do not gorge themselves and get bloat or grain poisoning. It takes time for the rumen microbes to adjust to a new feed (including green pastures after long dry periods). When changing feeds, shandy the new feed with the existing ration.

    8.     To work out the best value feeds for supplementing pasture, look at the energy value of the feed. Feeds that are cheaper (dollars per kilogram) may not necessarily end up being the best value if the energy content is lower or quality is poor which often results in more wastage.

    10.  Molasses can be used to top up energy but is not adequate for survival on its own. Molasses can be given as a liquid or a lick block. The stock must also have access to pasture and/or hay.

    11.  Urea can be fed to top up protein but needs to be used very carefully and can be toxic (especially to non-ruminants). Seek advice before using.

    12.  Cattle need additional calcium, sodium and magnesium (e.g. in a loose lick) when fed low quality hay or grain-based feeds. For more information visit the Future Beef Website

    13.  Sheep need additional calcium and salt when fed grain-based feeds. For more information see Autumn Feeding Guide for Sheep

    14.  After 4-6 months without green feed, young animals may need additional Vitamin A (ADE injection) and Vitamin B12 (injection). Seek veterinary advice.

    This workshop was made possible with funding and in-kind support from South East Local Land Services and the voluntary efforts of the Small Farms Network Capital Region committee.

  • 27 Jun 2018 8:56 PM | Jennie Curtis (Administrator)

    For this workshop our hosts were Peter and Penny Dagg from Eastern Dorpers and White Dorpers who shared their knowledge and experience about managing sheep health with our enthusiastic participants. Our other guest speakers were Dr Kate Sawford, the District Veterinarian from South East Local Land Services and Dr Natasha Lees from Scibus Pty Ltd (so a line-up of four vets in total!). The day included some theory sessions, a paddock walk and a sheep handling demonstration.

    Please note that the following notes from the workshop are general in nature and farmers should seek expert advice for their particular situation.

    The best methods of disease control are good animal husbandry, including ensuring your stock have access to adequate feed and water, and vaccinating and drenching your stock following best practice advice. If you are new to farming and not sure what to look out for here are some general tips:

    • Do your stock have adequate nutrition for the stage they are in the production cycle? For example, breeding ewes and cattle have higher nutritional requirements than other classes of stock. Animals that have just calved or lambed have additional requirements.
    • Some disorders are caused by nutrient deficiencies at certain times of the year.
    • If you call the vet, have a good case history ready, including how old the animal is, how many are sick, has it just given birth, what do you feed it and when you last vaccinated and drenched the animal?

    Learn the correct way to vaccinate your animals. Most vaccines are administered subcutaneously, between the skin and muscle. Read the instructions about dosage and administering the vaccine on the box. Try not to accidentally vaccinate yourself since some vaccines can have serious side effects. Vaccines that are particularly high-risk for humans include the Gudair vaccine for sheep.

    Learn the correct way to drench your animals for internal parasites, including worms and liver fluke. WormBoss has lots of information about the different types of worms, drenches and other management strategies for sheep and goats.

    There are some animal diseases that can transfer to humans and impact on your health. These are called zoonotic diseases. One example is Q fever which is a bacterial infection that causes flu-like symptoms in people and it can have long term effects. It is recommended that people handling sheep, cattle and goats consider getting tested and vaccinated for Q Fever, particularly if they are in contact with breeding animals.  See the NSW Health Website for more information. Many rural-based medical practices offer Q Fever vaccination.

    You should contact your local vet or District Veterinarian to report animal health concerns affecting several animals or multiple unexplained animal deaths as soon as possible. You can also call the Emergency Animal Disease Watch Line on 1800 675 888 and find more on the Animal Health Australia website.

    When purchasing livestock, ask for an animal health declaration. This covers a range of diseases and parasites. While this is not a mandatory requirement, all good breeders should supply them for sheep, cattle and goats that are moved around Australia.

    Some diseases move with infected breeding animals like bulls and rams. Diseases like Vibriosis in cattle and Brucellosis in sheep can have a significant, detrimental effect on herd performance.

    Vibriosis fact sheet

    Ovine Brucellosis fact sheet 

    Liver fluke fact sheet

    Every landholder who manages livestock (ruminants, pigs and horses) on their property is required to have a Property Identification Code (PIC). The data collected through the annual stock return for each property is used to create an annual animal census and the data is used in times of natural disaster to aid in recovery and organise fodder drops. The PIC number is also used for food safety requirements and food traceability which is required for international trade and domestic food safety. You can find out more about livestock management including applying for a PIC at South East Local Land Services – Livestock.

    There are a number of steps that you need to take to buy and sell livestock. When purchasing livestock it is important to purchase livestock from a trusted source with a National Vendor Declaration and animal health declaration to avoid importing diseases and parasites onto your property. Information about buying and selling ruminants can be found on the NSW DPI website and the 8 Step Guide to moving and selling sheep and goats. The South East Local Land Services Guide to Moving Stock is another useful resource.

    Farm biosecurity is a set of measures that you can put in place to manage the risks of diseases, weeds and pests on your property. Simple biosecurity measures that small farmers can take include:

    • Monitoring inputs and outputs from your farm
    • Having a place to quarantine new stock to reduce the risk of introducing diseases, worms and weed seeds
    • Purchasing clean feed (ask for a commodity vendor declaration)
    • Controlling the movement of vehicles and equipment on and off your property
    • Not feeding restricted animal material (meat and meat by products) to ruminants or swill to your animals (both are illegal feeds)
    • Keeping good animal husbandry records of mating, drenching, medications and routine procedures
    • Having good fencing especially boundary fences that prevent stock from straying into or out of your property
    • Practicing good farm hygiene – disinfect needles between vaccinations of animals, handle sick animals last to prevent the transfer of diseases, wash and disinfect loaned machinery.

    The Animal Health Australia Website has a useful Biosecurity Brochure for farmers.

    This event was made possible with funding and in-kind support from the New South Wales Department of Primary Industries, South East Local Land Services and Scibus Pty Ltd.  This initiative is part of the Australian Government’s Agricultural Competitiveness White Paper, the Government’s plan for Stronger Farmers and a Stronger Community.

    The Small Farms Network would like to thank the sponsor of the network The Palerang Local Action Network for Sustainability and the Small Farms Network Capital Region Committee. Finally thank you to our hosts and volunteers Peter and Penny Dagg at Eastern Dorpers and White Dorpers for hosting the field day and sharing their knowledge and expertise.

  • 16 May 2018 8:47 PM | Jennie Curtis (Administrator)

    We have a knack for bringing wet blustery conditions on our field days and Weeds in Waterways on the 14 April 2018 was no exception. Eighteen hardy souls donned their jackets for a day of information and demonstrations by  presenters Rebecca Bradley – Senior NRM Manager from South East Local Land Services, Lori Gould – Grass Roots Environmental and John Franklin – Franklin Consulting.

    Rebecca Bradley began by explaining the legal obligations of farmers with regard to weed management in NSW. The Biosecurity Act 2015  has two key principles: biosecurity is everyone’s responsibility and all land managers have a general biosecurity duty.

    All waterways are unique and behave differently depending the geology, soil type, river processes and energy level. You need to have a basic understanding of all aspects of stream behaviour before undertaking ground works. Something that works in one location may not be suitable on your property. Getting good local advice is a must. There are chemical, biological, physical and farm management factors that determine the behaviour of a watercourse. First and second order streams can have structures put in them to mitigate erosion, third order streams require a permit for structures and professional advice should be sought in this situation.

    John Franklin and Lori Gould shared their expertise in managing weeds in waterways including a discussion about willows and managing a riparian restoration project.

    Willows friend or foe?

    Willows (Salix spp.) are currently identified as a weed of national significance (see weeds of national significance list). They are invasive and well adapted to Australian conditions. Key points about willows:

    • Willows spread and propagate in different ways depending on the species. They can also form hybrids with each other. Some willows grow from seed, cuttings (that break off the plant and move in the water) and by suckers. Hybrid willows are very vigorous and can reproduce just two or three years after germination.
    • The replacement of native vegetation by willows adversely affects biodiversity in waterways by reducing habitat and aquatic diversity. Willows create a flush of organic matter when they drop leaves in autumn. This reduces water quality by reducing available oxygen and releasing chemicals that harm small in stream herbivores that are adapted to living with evergreen plants (such as eucalypts).
    • Willows use much more water than native vegetation in streams and willows in stream beds can divert stream flows, resulting in erosion.
    • Any willow project should consider what other vegetation there is on the site and whether revegetation is required. Sometimes there is enough remnant vegetation to recolonise once willows are removed. Circumstances where willows shouldn’t be removed (or removal should be staged) are on eroding outer bends of rivers and creeks and in places where it isn’t cost effective. For example, large infestations where willows are removed without any major environmental benefits, such as sites with willows upstream and downstream and little remnant vegetation. These sites really need a ‘whole of reach’ approach and actions need to be well coordinated. Often these sites become beyond the landholder’s capacity to manage. However, large projects can be a great success such as the Yass River Linkages Project.
    • If you propose to remove or prune any existing trees or vegetation, you should contact your council first to check if you need approval.

    For more information on willows see the Rivers of Carbon website – What is the problem with Willows?

    Managing weeds in waterways

    Some general principles for managing weeds in waterways:

    • Understand what you have in terms of native vegetation and weeds and do a simple map.
    • Cooperate with your neighbours where possible.
    • Prioritise weed control in high asset areas and/or where the weeds are in low numbers, removing weeds by hand or targeted spraying. Start with weeds that are the highest environmental priority (e.g. Serrated Tussock, St John’s Wort and other noxious weeds) and then progress to managing lower priority weeds if appropriate. If weeds are extensive then control may need to be staged from the outside in or from upstream to downstream. The amount that can be achieved will depend on time and budget.
    • It is generally considered better to poison willows in stream beds and leave them in place, rather than removing them manually using equipment. This reduces the risk of branches snapping off and plants establishing from the cuttings. The best option depends on what assets are downstream (e.g. fences, crossings, bridges).
    • When planning your project think about what you want to replace the weeds with. Plant a diversity of plants including ground covers, grasses, shrubs and trees. This provides valuable habitat for animals. Use local plant lists and resources from Landcare and Greening Australia to find out what to plant in your area. For example ROC Native Revegetation Species List and Local Native Plant Guide – Molonglo Valley.
    • Prepare tree planting sites by deep ripping and spraying in autumn and planting in winter and spring. Spraying with herbicide reduces grass competition or scalping is a chemical-free option.
    • Always water plants in and use tree guards.
    • Keep monitoring the site for new infestations of weeds and plant health.
    • Fence off the watercourse and manage grazing to allow the plants to establish. Timed grazing can be reintroduced once the revegetated trees and shrubs have grown to a suitable size.

    Other information

    The following fact sheets may be helpful:

    ·       Willows

    ·       Blackberry

    ·       Serrated tussock

    ·       Love Grass

    ·       Scotch Broom

    ·       Preparing a Whole of Property Weed Management Plan – South East Local Land Services

    This field day was made possible with funding from the Australian Government and in-kind support and funding from South East Local Land Services. Thank you to our sponsors of the network, the Palerang Local Action Network for Sustainability, and our host farm.

  • 16 May 2018 7:48 PM | Jennie Curtis (Administrator)

    The weekend in March 2018 was a ‘cut above’ the rest of our workshops for 27 participants from the region.

    Workshop trainer Barry Aitchison shared with us some chainsaw related statistics. The National Coronial Information Service data shows at least 99 deaths occurred in Australia between 2000 and 2016 as a result of chainsaw use and tree felling (Source ABC News). According to Barry in 2014 there were over 60 accidents from chainsaw use requiring at least 66 stitches in NSW hospitals. Having worked in the industry for over 33 years Barry believes that the main cause of injury is apathy, complacency and fatigue since most accidents occur in the afternoon.

    So what are Barry’s top five tips for safe chainsaw operation and maintenance?

    1. Safety is the number one priority – invest in a good chainsaw and safety equipment. Including chainsaw chaps, helmet, eye and ear protection, gloves, close fitting clothing and lace up boots if possible. A dust mask is also useful to prevent dust and fungi from the wood dust getting into your respiratory system. When in the bush consider using a hi-vis safety vest. Always be aware of other people around you by keeping them in your line of sight.
    2. Chainsaw fuel once mixed does not last forever. At the beginning of the season empty the old fuel from the chainsaw and put in fresh fuel. Use a high octane fuel and a special synthetic chainsaw oil. If the chainsaw is not working check the fuel, spark plug and chainsaw air cleaner first. For new chains soak the chain in bar oil for two hours so the reservoirs in the chain fill up with oil to lubricate the bar.
    3. Use a safety chain with a low profile, this will help prevent kickback. Different chainsaws models require different chains. The chain, bar and sprocket must match. The chain cannot be pulled in the reverse direction if the chain and sprocket don’t match. The chain can be fitted the wrong way, so check the cutting edge is facing forward.
    4. A kickback occurs when the top quadrant (or kickback zone) at the end of the cutter bar snags on a log. The resulting torque effect causes the chainsaw bar to kick upwards towards the operator. To help prevent kickback, know where the top of the cutter bar is at all times and put the bottom part of the bar into the log first. Use a safety chain and ensure that the chain brake is working. Modern chainsaws have chain brakes as a standard safety feature. More about kickbacks.
    5. Know your equipment and keep it sharp and clean. The chain can be sharpened using special files designed for each chain. The chainsaw bar can build up a burr that can be removed using a special tool. The burr will slow down the chain spinning on the bar. Carry a wedge to help free your cutter bar if it gets caught in a cut. And apply bright coloured paint to your tools so they don’t get lost or left behind in the forest.

    See chainsaw maintenance video 

    By providing links to external information in this summary, the Small Farms Network Capital Region is not recommending or promoting any brand of equipment. The links contain the best available diagrams and information on the topic.

    The Small Farms Network Capital Region would like to thank Mr Greg Simms from BRural for sponsoring this field day. Sponsorship enables us to keep the cost of our workshops affordable.  Check out the range of BRural chainsaw equipment in store and online.

    This field day was made possible with funding from the Australian Government, in-kind support from South East Local Land Services and sponsorship from BRural. Thank you to our sponsors, the Palerang Local Action Network for Sustainability, and our hosts Alan and Sue for giving up their weekend to help others learn.

  • 8 Mar 2018 7:35 PM | Jennie Curtis (Administrator)

    This workshop held in early 2018 looked at many aspects of storing and using water on farms. The following is a summary.

    Farm dams

    Each NSW property has a maximum volume of water (harvestable right) that can be stored in dams that is based on the area of the property. Before building a dam you need to calculate the capacity of existing dams to see if you have any more harvestable rights available (see NSW Office of Water Maximum Harvestable Right Calculator).

    If you have harvestable rights available then you need to work out whether a licence is required to build a dam (see NSW Office of Water Harvestable Rights – Dams). The easiest option is to build a dam on a first or second-order stream.  Dams on third-order waterways require a licence. The order of streams is based on the pattern of blue lines for watercourses shown on topographic maps (e.g. look up SIX maps for your property). There is an explanation about how to work out what order watercourse you are dealing with in NSW Office of Water Dams in NSW: Where Can They be Built Without a Licence[Your Council may also require you to lodge a development application before constructing a dam – Ed.]

    Good spillway design is crucial to ensuring that excess water can be released safely when there is lots of rain. It is desirable to have good ground cover on the spillway to protect it from erosion and also to keep it dry as often as possible. A trickle pipe can be installed to release small amounts of water so the spillway is kept dry.

    Farm dams can be made wildlife friendly and more attractive by excluding stock and planting riparian plants. See The Farm Dam Handbook (Water NSW) for design ideas and strategies.

    What makes dams leak?

    Poor construction

    • topsoil not removed before dam wall is constructed so water seeps out through topsoil layer in dam wall
    • inadequate compaction of dam wall

    Poor materials

    • a waterproof dam requires 10-12% clay
    • typically dams built in basalt soils will leak

    Leaking dams are expensive to repair. Options for repair include polymer material applied when dam is full or rubber or plastic liners. Contrary to popular opinion, throwing Bentonite into a dam will not fix leaks.

    It is also good practice not to plant trees on dam walls to reduce the risk of their roots causing leaks when the tree dies.

    Silted up dams

    Aim to maintain groundcover in the dam catchment to minimise silt flowing into the dam. Silt can be cleared out of a dam by emptying the water and then bucketing out the mud and spreading it on the dam wall or elsewhere. Sometimes dams leak after this has been done because the silt has been sealing leaks.

    Erosion around dams

    Generally erosion is caused when a dam is built on steeper ground so that the water drops down the front edge of the dam. The eroding areas can be protected by spreading rock on them. It might also help to build a berm across the front of the dam to direct the water into a narrow channel flowing into the dam that can be protected with rock. Strategies for dealing with erosion involve slowing the water moving down the slope, covering exposed soil and re-establishing ground covers.

    The NSW Government Soil Conservation Service provides consultants who can help design dams and provide advice for solving problems with existing dams.

    Stock water

    There are three key things to consider when planning your water supply for stock:

    • Quantity – how much is needed (see NSW DPI Primefact 326 Water Requirements for Sheep and Cattle), will you have enough in dry times? Remember that wildlife will use stock water too and you also need water for firefighting, garden watering and to allow for evaporation (25-30% from farm dams in the Southern Tablelands).
    • Quality – different quality water is needed for different purposes (e.g. drinking water for humans, drinking water for stock, irrigation water for garden). You can test your water to check that it is fit for purpose. Testing is important in dry summers when salt levels can build up in dams. Blue Green Algae (which is also sometimes red/brown) is toxic and stock should be kept away from it. The NSW DPI website has more information on water quality and testing for livestock and blue green algae testing.
    • Reliability – see NSW DPI Primefact 269 Stock Water: A Limited Resource

    Stock water can be provided by giving access to a dam or pumping water to troughs. Generally stock should be fenced out of dams to maintain water quality but you can fence so that they have limited access to a dam over rocky ground. Water troughs need to be kept clean and you need to make sure that all animals have access to troughs – sometimes there are bullies who keep the other stock away from the trough.

    The water in the dam will be cleaner if you fence to stop stock camping in the dam catchment. It is also important to maintain 100% ground cover in the dam catchment and 80% elsewhere to reduce silt and nutrient run off into the dam.

    House water

    Most farms store rainwater collected from roofs in tanks for use in the house including drinking. While this tank water is relatively low risk, good hygiene is critical for ensuring water is safe for drinking. People with compromised immune systems and the elderly are most at risk.

    Key actions are:

    • clean house roof gutters to remove dirt and debris
    • first flush diverters can keep the dirtiest water out of the tank but they need regular maintenance to work properly
    • tanks can be cleaned (say annually) using technology similar to cleaning a swimming pool while the water is still in the tank
    • pumps should be regularly cleaned and maintained
    • drinking water can be filtered using charcoal and paper filters which should be replaced annually
    • home test kits are available to check the quality of the tank water

    If the water becomes contaminated (e.g. dead animal in tank), water can be made safe for drinking by boiling. UV filters can also be used to clean water but are more expensive.

    This field day was made possible with funding from the Australian Government, in-kind support from South East Local Land Services, the Soil Conservation Service and Veolia. Thank you to our sponsors of the network, the Palerang Local Action Network for Sustainability, and our host farm.

  • 28 Nov 2017 7:28 PM | Jennie Curtis (Administrator)

    Led by Jo Powells, Senior Agronomist with South East Local Land Services, the focus of the field days was land capability, soil chemistry and interpreting soil test results.

    Key points

    • ‘Land capability’ is the inherent ability of the land to sustain agricultural production. It takes into account the characteristics of the site including slope, vegetation and the physical characteristics of the soil. There is a range of classification from 1 (highly arable) to 8 (only suited to light grazing or conservation). The Rural Living Guide has more information about Land Capability Classes.
    • Regular soil tests can give you the information needed to recognise the physical and chemical limitations of your soil. The tests can help you to identify key properties of the soil and how it will react to inputs. For example, fertilising without regular soil testing may lead to nutrient imbalances or the over application of a particular nutrient. If you decide to soil test, use a NATA Accredited Lab for the analysis so you know that the result are based on accepted standards and can be compared with other soil tests.
    • Pasture legumes are sensitive to soil pH and low soil Sulphur which can lead to poor nodulation and reduced nitrogen fixation by the plant.
    • Phosphorus is usually the key nutrient limiting pasture production in Australia. By understanding and using soil test results, you can choose to use different fertiliser treatments to increase pasture production.
    • Some soils in the Capital region are classed as sodic soils. These soils have an exchangeable sodium percentage (ESP) > 6% and are prone to dispersion and structural collapse when wet. This can lead to erosion problems or a very compacted layer in the soil. Cultivation of sodic soils can increase water infiltration and exacerbate the problems. Sodic soils can be improved by applying gypsum, or a combination of gypsum and lime in acidic soils. Soil testing can guide you in deciding on the best way to manage these soils.


    Alternative Fertilisers and Pasture Productivity – a South East Local Land Services research project in collaboration with Bookham Landcare to trial a range of alternative fertiliser treatments – the videos reporting on the research findings are excellent and may well challenge your ideas about soil biology and fertilisers.

    The Trouble with Sub Project – a South East Local Lands Services research project with Harden Murrumburrah Landcare investigating problems with performance of sub-clover in pastures and relationship to soil chemistry.

    Australian Soil Fertility Manual – CSIRO Publishing (edited Graham Price), available from various sources including digital version.

    Agskills Manual – Managing for Healthy Soils – a starting point for learning about soils.

    Rural Living Guide – useful primer developed by South East Local Land Services for small farms, provides overview of wide range of topics related to managing and farming rural lands with links to many resources.

    Introduction to Soil Sodicity – technical note by Co-operative Research Centre for Soil and Land Management.

    Best practice guidelines to using poultry manure on pastures – guide to using chicken manure by Neil Griffiths, District Agronomist, Extensive Industries Development, published by NSW Department of Primary Industries.

    Soils for Life – website with information about soils regenerative practices

    Northern Rivers Soil Health Card – tool developed for farmers by farmers to use to monitor the health of their soils.

    These field days were made possible with funding from the Australian Government, in-kind support from South East Local Land Services. Lunch for the field days was provided by the ACT Regional Landcare Facilitator. Thank you to our sponsors of the network, the Palerang Local Action Network for Sustainability, and our host farms for the field days.

  • 28 Nov 2017 7:20 PM | Jennie Curtis (Administrator)

    At this workshop with Alison Elvin we discussed weeds – why they are growing, how to identify them and what they look like in the paddock.

    “Weeds are messengers – they can tell you a lot about your land and what is happening with the soil” Alison Elvin 2017

    So why are weeds a problem and how can we manage them? Weeds are usually performing a function within the landscape or filling a niche where they can easily out compete other plants. They often grow on bare, acidic, compacted soils with little top soil. The most important thing that you can do to stop weeds getting a foothold is to maintain ground cover and protect top soil.

    General weed management guidelines

    • Accurate identification of weeds and your paddock plants is essential. Learn about what you have.
    • Maintain ground cover by managing stocking rates and using mulch to protect small bare patches of soil.
    • Most weeds set huge numbers of seeds that can survive in the soil for long periods. For example Serrated Tussock can set up to 140,000 seeds per plant per year. Stop weeds seeding in the current year by rotational grazing, mowing or other means. Cool burns at the right time of the year (with a permit) can help reduce seed.
    • Killing weeds can be helpful for reducing spread – use mechanical removal methods where possible. If you use herbicides, only spray on calm, sunny days at times when plants are actively photosynthesising. This will improve the uptake of chemical. Use a funnel over the nozzle to prevent spray drift.
    • Manage soil fertility – by improving soil fertility and taking soil samples you can address any mineral deficiencies in the soil. Cape Weed and other yellow flowering weeds indicate the soil is deficient in Calcium.
    • Biosecurity – seed moves on vehicles, in and on livestock, in feed (e.g. hay) and by wind. Use quarantine paddocks for newly arrived stock, buy feed from reputable sources and feed out in restricted areas.
    • When removing or controlling weeds – replace the weed with plants/seeds of the vegetation that you want to grow there. Sow seeds, plant shrubs/seedlings and spread mulch. On elevated ground, remove weeds and use mounds and swales made from vegetation or hay bales to trap seeds. Work in small patches to reduce erosion risk.
    • Some weeds like thistles can be beneficial – they have very deep tap roots and exude secretions that feed fungi in the soil. Consider chipping the weeds and leaving the roots intact as this will help the fungi spread and improve soil fertility.
    • Only use herbicides according to the label instructions and use personal protection equipment. Help reduce development of herbicide resistance by using integrated control methods. When selecting a contractor, ensure that they have Chemcert Training.

    Serrated Tussock

    Serrated Tussock has an interesting history in Australia. It was introduced in pack saddles before WW1 and only became a problem after the Rabbit Drought. Serrated Tussock is a problem because it is highly unpalatable to stock, it has a high silica content and the microbes in the rumen won’t break it down. It will kill stock that graze it when there is nothing else to eat. Over grazing pastures will compound the problem because the weeds that are toxic to the stock will proliferate since they are the least desirable to graze.

    Here are some tips to identifying Serrated Tussock and controlling it:

    • Poa spp., Corkscrew Grass and other native tussock grasses flower in early spring, Serrated Tussock flowers in November and December.
    • Serrated Tussock is usually a lime green colour when actively growing, native tussock grasses are more bluish grey. The seed heads of Serrated Tussock will blow around in late summer, native tussock will hold onto the seed heads (see photo). Serrated Tussock generally only flowers once a year. Native grasses can flower twice a year if conditions allow. Alison Elvins suggested that the best time to identify serrated tussock is in winter.  Physical barriers and dense windbreaks on the boundary can reduce spread of serrated tussock because 70% of the seed heads move around 70-90 cm above the ground.
    • If you need help with identification and management of weeds your Council Weeds Officers can assist you.

    More information

    NSW WeedWise – NSW DPI website with descriptions and photos of common weeds along with information about control and management options.

    Weed Spotter – ACT and Southern Tablelands website for reporting and mapping weeds and weed control actions – citizen science in action.

    Weed Management Guide – Serrated Tussock – information sheet about Serrated Tussock issues, identification, spread and management options by CRC Weed Management.

    Serrated Tussock Resistance to Fluproponate – information from the Serrated Tussock Working Party for NSW and ACT about the developing resistance to herbicides and how you can help reduce this problem.

    This workshop was made possible with funding from the Australian Government and support from South East Local Land Services and Queanbeyan Palerang Regional Council. Thank you to our hosts for contributing to a successful day and our network sponsors, the Palerang Local Action Network for Sustainability.

  • 13 Oct 2017 7:09 PM | Jennie Curtis (Administrator)

    Matthew Lieschke and Dr Bill Johnson from South East Local Land Services led the discussion and practical session about managing lambs and ewes at lamb marking. Lamb marking is a key animal husbandry task for people raising lambs and typically involves ear tagging, vaccination, castration and tail docking.

    Key points

    Plan to mark lambs at 2-8 weeks of age. Younger lambs are likely to recover faster. Lamb marking should be completed before the lambs are 12 weeks old. If you have lambs arriving over a long period, it might be better to have several lamb marking times. Marking before the end of October reduces the risk of fly strike.

    Preparation of the site and equipment will help you to minimise infections. Generally a temporary holding pen out in a paddock is cleaner than the sheep yards and a good place to do marking. Avoid mud and dusty conditions. Cover surfaces where equipment is placed with a clean cloth or towel. You can use a lamb cradle or hold the lamb securely in your arms (see photo).

    Disinfect any equipment between animals using Hibitane (Chlorhexidine). Push needles into a sponge soaked in the disinfectant solution after each injection. Note that most other types of disinfectants are deactivated by organic matter and need to be changed frequently.

    Vaccinate each lamb at lamb marking with 5 in 1 or 6 in 1 vaccine for sheep with a follow up booster vaccination 4 weeks later. This is injected subcutaneously (under the skin) either in the neck or the brisket (if holding the lamb). Needles for sheep vaccinations should be sharp, 18 gauge and 6mm or 12mm long.

    Lambs that will be kept for more than 2 years can be vaccinated with Gudair vaccine for lifelong protection against Johne’s Disease. Be careful with Gudair vaccine which can have bad side effects for people who accidentally touch or inject it.

    [Options now available for reducing pain at marking include Numnuts and Buccalgesic - Ed.]

    The recommended tail length for tail docking is three palpable joints. In ewe lambs, a tail of this length covers the vulva. Shorter tail lengths take longer to heal, can affect the movement of the tail and increase the likelihood of fly strike. If you are using lamb marking rings, the ring should be placed on the joint rather than the bone between joints, the tail will usually drop off in about 3-4 weeks.

    Castration of male lambs is often done by placing a lamb marking ring over the scrotum, making sure that both testicles are included and that the teats are not included before releasing the ring into place (see ‘A producers guide to sheep husbandry practices’ below for more details).

    Lambs need to have an ear tag with the Property Identification Code (PIC) if they will ever be moved off the property. The tag can also have other information such as a number for the flock or individual sheep and a V if vaccinated for Johne’s Disease. Different coloured ear tags are used for each year but this is not compulsory. Pink tags are only used to replace tags where a sheep was born on another property and has lost its tag. Use a tag applicator that matches the type of tags. Dip the tag in disinfectant before applying half way along and half way up the ear. A convention is that ewe lambs are tagged in their right ear, ram/wether lambs are tagged in their left ear.

    After marking, allow lambs time to ‘mother up’ with the ewes. It can help to put the lambs in the middle of the paddock and then let the ewes out to the lambs and give them time to find each other. The male lambs will often lie down.

    Plan to wean at 12-14 weeks of age. In tougher years, it can be better to wean earlier so that ewes can start to put weight on in preparation for joining. By 8 weeks old the lamb is getting less than 10% of its nutritional intake from milk. Wean lambs onto your best paddocks that have been rested for 3 months to reduce worm burdens and don’t have nasty grass seed heads. Lambs are usually given their first drench at weaning. Weaning is also a good time for the lambs’ booster vaccination (if it hasn’t already happened).

    Further Information

    A producers guide to sheep husbandry practices – Meat and Livestock Australia. This guide gives a comprehensive guide on best practice sheep husbandry and more detail on lamb marking procedures.

    Sheep Ag Skills – A Practical Guide to Farm Skills

    Sheep Weaning Best Practice (WA)

    Early weaning and creep feeding of lambs in poor seasons (WA)

    Creep feeding lambs (NSW DPI)

    Options for weaning (Sheep 201)

    This field day was made possible by funding from the Australian Government, in-kind support from South East Local Land Services and the Palerang Local Action Network for Sustainability. We thank them for their ongoing support.


Small Farms Network Capital Region Inc
PO Box 313
NSW 2621

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